Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Kabul Conference Held After Violent and Divisive Week; Qatari Prince Won’t Testify In Person for JIT

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  • Pres. Ghani hosted a meeting of regional diplomats and international organizations in Kabul on Tuesday, at which he appealed for “an agreement on regional security” and linked last week’s violence in Kabul to terrorist attacks around the world. Ghani said the death toll from last Wednesday’s truck bombing had risen to more than 150 dead, and blamed Pakistan for an “undeclared war of aggression” against Afghanistan. A rocket struck outside the Indian ambassador’s residence in Kabul; no casualties were reported.
  • The presidency and Afghan National Security Council rebuffed calls from protestors and the Jamiat-e-Islami leadership for the resignation of top security officials; sit-in protests continued in Kabul on Tuesday despite the heavy security in the capital. Foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani did not attend Tuesday’s conference. Former Pres. Karzai, Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf, and other top politicians met separately on Tuesday, calling for “systematic reforms” in the security services but stopping short of Jamiat’s call for immediate resignations.
  • Former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani has reportedly rebuffed a request from the Panama Papers Joint Investigation Team for a personal testimony regarding the money trail behind the Sharif family’s Qatari and London real estate investments, reiterating his previous written responses instead. The JIT is also investigating money laundering allegations against Finance Minister Dar dating back to 1999.
  • National Security Advisor McMaster spoke by phone, and White House Senior Director for South and Central Asia Lisa Curtis met with Hanif Atmar on the sidelines of the Kabul Process conference, where she was quoted saying that the Trump administration’s Afghan strategy review “has completed” and would be announced soon.
  • Six Pakistani employees of a Polish engineering firm who were kidnapped last November in Dera Ismail Khan were freed on Monday.
  • Former vice president Karim Khalili, who has been deputy head of the Afghan High Peace Council, was appointed to head the council on Monday, six months after the death of chairman Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani.
  • The Indian and Pakistani Directors General for Military Operations spoke by hotline on Monday, with both sides trading warnings for the other against escalations and ceasefire violations.
  • The Sindh provincial government unveiled its draft Rs 1.04 trillion budget for the forthcoming fiscal year on Monday; the Khyber Paktunkhwa government will present its budget on Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Kidnapped Engineers Released: Six Pakistani employees of the Polish engineering company Geofizyka Krakow who were kidnapped in November 2016 in Dera Ismail Khan by the Pakistani Taliban were “freed unconditionally” on Monday, South Waziristan political agent Zafrul Islam tells the AFP. [Reuters]
  • Tensions with India: The Indian and Pakistani Directors General for Military Operations made hotline contact on Monday after a spike in clashes across the Line of Control over the weekend, during which Pakistani military spokesmen claimed to have killed five Indian soldiers; in a statement, Pakistan’s military condemned the killing of civilians “inadvertently” crossing the Line of Control and called for India to provide “actionable evidence regarding alleged infiltration”. In a statement, the Indian Army warned that “if Pak Army continues to abet infiltrations and cause trans-LoC firings, the Indian Army will take appropriate retaliatory actions.” On Tuesday, India released two children who had crossed over the border last August. [The Nation]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Panama Papers Investigation: The Joint Investigation Team investigating the Panama Papers case has obtained records from the Securities and Exchange Commission of Pakistan regarding alleged money laundering by Finance Minister Dar on behalf of the Sharif family through the Hudaibya Paper Mills, to which Dar confessed in 2000 but later retracted his statements. The JIT also reviewed a written response from former Qatari prime minister Hamad bin Jassim bin Jaber Al-Thani, which reportedly upheld his previous letters to the courts detailing a money chain from Sharif family investments in Qatar to the family’s London real estate purchases. The JIT has sought a personal statement from Al-Thani through a video link, but The Nation reports he has rebuffed the request, saying he is too busy; Qatar is currently undergoing a diplomatic split with Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries, which Pakistan has sought to avoid choosing sides on. The opposition and the government continue to trade accusations regarding the leak of photos of Hussain Nawaz’s appearance before the JIT, and remarks by PML-N senator Nehal Hashmi, who on Tuesday sought to withdraw his resignation from the senate. [The Nation] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Monday, the PTI announced the dissolution of all party leadership positions in advance of elections for the top thirteen party leadership positions, which are planned to be held June 17-19, with results to be announced June 20. The Nation reports that the PTI will file a response with the Supreme Court on the disqualification cases facing Imran Khan and Jahangir Tareen on Wednesday; the Election Commission has indefinitely adjourned its hearings the issue while the court hears the parallel case. [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • British Pakistani Identified as London Attacker; Family Hotel Searched in Jhelum [AFP] [Dawn]
  • ANP Protests Exclusion of Other Parties from Mashal Khan Lynching Investigation Report [Dawn]
  • Lyari Gang Leader Arrested in Hub [The Nation]
  • Jamaat-e-Islami to Oppose PTI Proposal to Regulate Khyber Paktunkhwa Seminaries [ET]
  • Rising Temperatures Increase Power Supply-Demand Gap [ET] [Dawn]
  • Chinese Businessman Files Police Charges Over Alleged Assault by Business Partner [Dawn] [ET]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kabul Attack Investigations: On Monday, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior said that the explosives used in last week’s truck bombing in Kabul were from Pakistan, saying that “Pakistan is the key planner of this incident like in the past, but our security team is investigating the incident and these investigations have not been completed”. Anonymous sources tell TOLO that the truck carrying the bomb was not stopped during its entry into the city.
  • Rocket Hits Indian Ambassador’s Residence: A rocket struck a tennis court outside the Indian ambassador to Afghanistan’s Kabul residence on Tuesday, as the city was in effective lockdown for the Kabul Process summit taking place. No casualties were reported in the strike. [Khaama Press] [Reuters]
  • McMaster Speaks with Ghani: U.S. National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster spoke by phone again on Monday with Pres. Ghani, underscoring “America’s steadfast support for the National Unity Government” and stressing the importance of unity. Lisa Curtis, Senior Director for South and Central Asia for the National Security Council, met with Afghan National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar on Tuesday on the sidelines of the Kabul Process conference; Khaama Press quotes her saying that “the Trump administration has completed the review of the Afghanistan policy and it is expected that the final results will be announced through media in the near future”.
  • Other Attacks and Operations: Ministry of Defense officials say that as many as 23 Taliban fighters were killed in an airstrike in the Jalrez district of Wardak province on Monday, among other operations. In a statement on Tuesday, the Taliban accused security personnel in Faryab of desecrating the bodies of slain Taliban fighters.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Kabul Conference Opens After a Violent Week: Pres. Ghani opened a “Kabul Process” conference meeting on Tuesday, at which he linked the past week’s violence in Kabul to other terrorist attacks around the world and appealed for “an agreement on regional security”. Ghani reported that the death toll from the Wednesday truck bombing had exceeded 150 people, with more than 300 wounded, making it the deadliest single attack in Kabul since 2001. Ghani said that he would seek unspecified new sanctions against the Taliban if they did not enter into a peace process, warning that “this is the last chance”. Around 20 countries and international organizations attended the talks, which acting Foreign Minister and Jamiat-e-Islami leader Salahuddin Rabbani did not participate in. In his remarks, Ghani directly accused Pakistan, which was represented at the conference by a foreign ministry additional secretary, of waging an “undeclared war of aggression” against Afghanistan, asking “what will it take to convince Pakistan that a stable Afghanistan helps them and helps our region?” [Ghani Conference Remarks] [RFE/RL] [AFP] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Khaama Press] [Dawn]
  • Presidency Rebuffs Calls for Resignations: In a statement on Monday, the presidential palace rebuffed calls from the Jamiat-e-Islami and public demonstrators for the resignation or removal of top security officials, saying that “early judgments in the absence of the formal procedures will only spark worries” among the security services. Sit-ins calling for those resignations continued for a fifth day on Tuesday, despite security restrictions in the capital. The National Security Council issued a separate statement rejecting demands for National Security Advisor Hanif Atmar to step down, saying the Jamiat’s calls were “politically motivated”. Following Monday’s call by Jamiat, several former jihadi leaders, including former Pres. Karzai, Abdul Rassoul Sayyaf, and former vice president Karim Khalili, also met on Monday; their statement afterwards urged “officials to consider systematic reforms in the security, defense and intelligence sectors that could meet the sensitive situations of the country”. [TOLO] [Ariana News]
  • Khalili Appointed High Peace Council Chief: A spokesman for Pres. Ghani confirmed on Monday evening that former vice president Karim Khalili, who had served as deputy chief of the High Peace Council, had been appointed as its chairman, following the death of Pir Syed Ahmad Gilani in January.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: Why More Troops Won’t Help Afghanistan – “More troops, in the absence of an effective diplomatic strategy, could make Afghanistan less rather than more stable.” [Barnett Rubin, New Yorker]

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